Thu, Mar 1st 2012, 12:28
The U.S. Women’s National Team scored twice in the first half and three times in the last 15 minutes to defeat Denmark 5-0 in its Group B opener at the 2012 Algarve Cup.
U.S. forward Alex Morgan scored twice with one assist while Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd and Sydney Leroux added single goals as the USA took a commanding lead in its group after the first round of matches. Japan defeated Norway 2-1 in the other Group B contest.
The USA will meet Norway next on March 2 at 10 a.m. ET in Lagos. Fans can follow the action on ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker and on Twitter at @ussoccer_wnt.
The USA played in a 4-4-2 formation with Morgan and Wambach starting up top, and the duo once again proved to be a potent partnership.
The USA’s first goal came in the 21st minute as Wambach spun a long ball over the top to Morgan, whose run took her defender deep into Denmark territory. Morgan flicked the ball with her head to Heather O’Reilly on the right side and the U.S. midfielder collected, cut inside and then played it back to Morgan behind the defense and into the right side of the penalty area.
Under pressure, Morgan struck a hard shot from 16 yards out that caromed off the left post, rolled behind Denmark goalkeeper Heidi Johansen, and then settled into the net just inside the post.
The USA’s first quality series of ball possession came in the 15th minute and led to right back Amy LePeilbet sending in a cross from the flank. Morgan kept the ball alive with a leaping header at the far post. The ball fell to Lloyd inside the six-yard box, but she was almost too close to Johansen, who snuffed her hard shot at point blank range at the left post.
The match had a bit of a rambunctious start as the Danes put good pressure on the U.S. midfield and backs, but the Americans settled down to control most of the first half hour. Denmark flipped the field on the U.S. in the latter part of this half and looked dangerous at times with some nice passing around the top of the penalty area, but it was the Americans who scored the next goal.
It came just a minute before halftime and was once again a Morgan-Wambach production. LePeilbet struck a long ball from near the top of her own penalty box to Wambach at midfield. The big U.S. striker flicked it on with her head to Morgan, who turned and raced down the right side with a defender in tow. She sprinted almost all the way to the end line, drawing the ’keeper to the near post, and for a moment it looked as if she wouldn’t have space to cross. Wambach lost her defender with a fantastic hesitation run, burst to the top of the six-yard box and met Morgan’s short pass with a powerful sliding shot into the middle of the net. It was Wambach’s 132nd career goal.
U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage made three changes at halftime, replacing Wambach with Tobin Heath, sending on Amy Rodriguez for O’Reilly and inserting Stephanie Cox for Kelley O’Hara at left back. All would add to the USA’s attack in the final 45 minutes as Heath played flank midfield, moving Cheney up top with Morgan.
Denmark had several dangerous counter-attacks in the second half, but almost all were cut off by U.S. defenders. U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo earned the shutout by handling her housekeeping chores inside the box with aplomb. She cleaned up a few bouncing balls, caught several crosses, punched away one dangerous corner kick and was quick off her line to smother several through balls at the feet of Danish attackers.
Denmark’s best second-half chance came when Nadia Nadim flew through the middle to get her head on a corner kick, but it bounced right into Solo’s steady hands.
The USA put the game away with three nice goals at the end of the match. The first came in the 76th minute when Morgan slipped a ball through to the streaking Lauren Cheney into the left side of the box. She beat Johansen to the ball, smoothly rounding the Denmark ’keeper with a deft touch and then slammed her shot off the left post.
Amazingly, the ball came right back to her in the left side of the penalty area and she showed remarkable composure to collect and then roll a pass into the middle for the crashing Lloyd. She took her chance first-time, pushing a shot into the right corner with her right foot a few yards left of the penalty spot.
Morgan added her second goal in the 84th minute after substitute Lori Lindsey lofted a ball from the right side toward the top of the box. Morgan leaped to win the ball and it fell into a pack of players just inside the penalty area. Heath battled several defenders to dig the ball out and Morgan came running through to smack her shot through traffic and into the net. It was Morgan’s 18th career international goal and her team-leading eighth this year.
The USA continued to push in the final minutes and it was no surprise that a fifth goal came. Morgan ran down a pass on the left flank, just saving it from going out of bounds. She then passed back to Cox in the left side of the box and the U.S. defender struck a hard shot on the ground through a pack of players and was likely going to roll past the far post until Leroux – who did well to stay onside – slid to knock the ball into the open net from the sharpest of angles. Leroux, the USA’s youngest player at 21, scored her sixth career goal in just six games after getting five in one game at Olympic Qualifying in Vancouver, Canada.
THANH TRAN | on 3/3/12
I love Abby Wambach